The MNREGA Sahayata Kendras of Jharkhand have been working on strengthening the demand side of the grievance redress mechanism since their inception. The idea of a sahayata kendra led community driven grievance management and monitoring system is very recent but the experiences have been very rich and significant .The grievance redress policies and provisions as proposed in the MGNREGA ACT itself is very powerful and provides control and power in the hands of the workers but in reality in the last 12 years the grievance redress mechanisms have not been established at all. It is important to understand that “implementation” and “transparency and accountability” are two completely different verticals when it comes to delivery of Government schemes and services. Thus independent government agencies as well as citizens forums should be there to re-enforce the provisions and policies of the Law and the task of monitoring cannot only be only left to the implementers.
MNREGA Sahayata kendra is an idea where 3-4 people selected from community institutions like SHGs, Mazdoor Sangathans, Kisaan sangathans, with support from different citizen’s networks and administration get based in block premises and act as a pool between the citizen and the administration. It, at one hand helps people register their applications and grievances with the administration and follows up on the redress of the same and at the other hand,work on monitoring of public schemes through site visits, concurrent social audits etc.
Jharkhand’s MNREGA Sahayata Kendra experience show that independent agency like The Social Audit Unit and citizens space acknowledged by the Government such as MNREGA Sahayata kendras can work hand in hand to monitor delivery of services and raise the issues linked to implementation time to time so that the administration reciprocate in a responsible manner to the issues of people.
The Rural development Department in Jharkhand had signed a two year MoU in August’2017 with 15 Sahayata kendras in the state and provides basic support for the kendras at the block level. It is important that such public forums get recognition from the administration, otherwise it is difficult for the kendras to operate spontaneously. Apart from the Sahayata kendras having an MoU with the Govt, there are about 10 other sahayata kendras in the state which has started functioning in similar manner taking inspiration from the erstwhile kendras.
It has been realized that the administrative actions to issues and grievances are a matter of bureaucratic priority which keeps on switching time to time to different issues and mostly driven by hierarchical administrative orders but for setting up a transparent and smooth grievance redress mechanism one has to ensure constant engagement and a concrete process oriented mechanism which operates in a systematic manner and shouldn’t be affected by any administrative processes and priorities. People’s grievances should be of highest order priority and people themselves will have to constantly keep it a priority. Thus, a system of grassroot demand for actions on issues, grievances, leakages and malpractices should be put in place and community based organizations and people’s collectives are the best forums for re-enforcing the same. The people’s collectives being the core to this idea can partner with the Social audit Unit, independent citizen forums and most importantly PRI( Panchayati Raj Institutions) systems to make it a constant affair. A bottom up process for evidence based action is the key for such an idea to materialize. The grass-root collectives will have to constantly help people register their demands, applications and grievances with the local administration, follow up on the issues and escalate to the higher levels. The mechanisms of citizen driven social audit and public hearing time to time are also integral part of this process. The idea is not only to deal with grievances but to make the system more transparent and accountable to the people. One of the reasons why Jharkhand’s MNREGA Sahayata kendra could work effectively on ground, is the fact that it has got support from the various people’s collective’s on ground. The Women SHG Federation, Mazdoor Sangathans have been constantly helping and supporting the representatives of the Sahayata kendras. In most blocks the kendras are formed as an auxiliary wing of the women SHG federations which strengthens and empowers the office of the kendras.
The MNREGA Sahayata kendras have tasted success in the past two years in getting worker’s issues of pending wages, unemployment allowances, worksite facilities, job card application, resolved and the kendars are further working on issues of Ration and Pension schemes as well to help people avail their rightful benefits.
It is majorly the Sahayata Kendras efforts, that in Jharkhand 488 workers have been given 477416/- as unemployment allowances in MGNREGA in the past two years. As per the ACT, A worker will be eligible for an unemployment allowance if s/he is not allocated work within 15 days from work demand. While, the provision of Unemployment Allowance payment has been kept to keep the control of the programme with the workers, however, it was merely a myth with very few unemployment allowances being paid in the last 12 years.
Details of Unemployment Allowances Payment
|Number of Workers
|15th June 2017
|14th july 2017
Maximum of these unemployment allowance payments could be possible due to constant follow-ups by the Sahayata kendras at all administrative levels.
The idea of a sahayata kendra model is just not linked to grievance management, follow up and escalation but these are only processes to make people’s voices heard and allow citizens to take control of the developmental planning and implementation work in a particular area. Effective people’s monitoring is the key to proper implementation.
In a pioneering initiative by the Sahayata Kendra in Sonua block, it has helped 41 MGNREGA workers get registered with the labour department which means now these workers will be entitled for added benefits and insurance schemes under the labour department.
34 out of these 41 workers have been now provided an amount 1000/- each at their bank accounts under the “safety scheme” for construction workers. They will be eligible for more benefits and insurance once they utilize the money and submit proper bills against it.
Such initiatives are only possible through constant awareness and support to the workers at the local level by the community institutions itself. Apart from monitoring of schemes and seeking accountability from the administration, public awareness generation is the other key role of the Sahayata kendras.
The MNREGA Sahayata Kendra model in the state of Jharkhand should be seen as an example how effective people’s monitoring in the social security schemes can hold the local administration accountable and make people more aware of their rights at the same time. The public grievances re often not heard at all and leakages in the system never come to light. A local public monitoring through a sahayata kendra kind of an arrangement seems to be the answer to that.
DEBMALYA NANDY is a Social Worker